What I loved in September

 

I haven’t blogged in a long time. In all honesty, I haven’t felt like writing. I haven’t felt inspired, I haven’t read some amazing tome that I desperately felt I had to share with the world or tasted some luscious wine that deserved my (amateur) write up. In fact, if I’m honest, I’ve become bored with the format of this blog (that said, I really appreciate all the positive feedback that I get about it all the time).

What I have wanted to write about for ages though, like a fire burning in my bones, are several things I discovered in September. I hate Facebook, so I didn’t want to share all my discoveries there. The more I thought about it, the more wonderful things I could list that I loved about September, and what better place to speak my mind than my blog, which I  also love but have neglected for several weeks (if not months). So, disclaimer aside, these are the things that I loved about September.

  1. The 1975

This British bubble-gum pop, 80’s throwback band are indubitably the inspiration for this blog post. It’s also dishonest of me to say that I only loved them in September. The truth is, I have barely listened to another album since I stumbled across their song, The Sound, sometime at the end of July. You think I’m exaggerating, I know you do, but the truth is that I listen to, wait for it,  I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, at least twice a day. The fact is that this album is an absolute masterpiece. The piano and saxophone solos, the catchy yet incredibly intelligent lyrics, the smooth voice of Matt Healey (my obsession is so bad that I dreamed recently that I told him I loved him at one of their concerts- when a fan actually did that at one of their shows, Matt Healey had a breakdown and asked the audience what right they had to love him, when they don’t even know him) and the self-belligerence contained in this sophomore album makes it feel like audio cocaine. I wake up at night with rifts from various songs running through my mind. When compared to their self-titled debut album (which I also loved and didn’t think could be improved upon) I like it when you sleep knocks their debut out the ballpark. The band said this album is an answer to critics of their first (well, they probably would say that it’s a giant “F#@k you” to critics). Where they were berated for being smarmy and smart-mouthed on the previous album, they became more pretentious on the second, when mocked for their 80’s nostalgia pop, they added more sax solos and a definitively 80’s rock sound. I love that about them. I love that they’re obnoxious, I love that they’re so honest about what they wrestle with (they recently said that if they had been awarded the Mercury Prize this year, they would have spent the money on lots and lots of drugs). They eschew the “social media” game that so many factory-made musicians use to promote their brand. These rough British boys with band teeth from Manchester are as real and raw and authentic as it gets, and for that reason I’ll keep listening to their disgustingly-catchy songs and I’ll keep loving their music.

Listen to The Sound here. (Also watch out for She’s American, Somebody and This must be my dream).

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2. Outlander

Dear God. If The 1975 is audio cocaine, then the time-travelling/historical series Outlander is visual heroine. I literally didn’t sleep some nights because I was awake thinking “What if Claire had touched the stones? What if they’d rescued Jaime from Black Jack Randall in time?” I can.not. Okay, it was released in 2014, so I’m a bit behind, and Netflix only has the first season on it at the moment (note to self: email the elves at Netflix and beg for the second season). I don’t know what it is that’s so utterly delicious about this series. It’s epic, start to finish. Maybe its the heroism of the Scots, maybe it’s the undeniable chemistry between Claire and Jaime, maybe its the accents and the gorgeous men running around in kilts killing each other. Maybe it’s because I myself am a McDonald, so every time the opening credit song (the Skye Boat song, originally penned by Robert Louis Stevenson in 1892 about Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape from the British) my heart soars. Based on the books by Diana Gabaldon (which you know I’m gonna get my hands on!), this is escapism at its best, the editing is excellent, the scenery is lush, and if you can get a hold of it and watch it, do it! Also…Sam Heughan, those blue eyes get me every time!

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3. Learning something new about a very old earth

What would a book blog be without a book, right? As you may or may not know, I’ll pretty much read anything that flows from the pen of Bill Bryson, though I’m not much of a traveler myself. In fact, I’ll read almost anything, although non-fiction is seldom my first choice. Some time back I read a popular science book called Big Bang, by Simon Singh. It’s really hard, as an author or scientist, to get popular science right, because you have to be able to convey very difficult concepts in a way that the common man can understand. I enjoy books like this, because you can learn so much you didn’t know before, it just expands your mind (and after hours of binge-watching Outlander, some mind-expansion is usually in order). So I tackled Bryson’s ambitious attempt at just this, A Short History of Nearly Everything. In this 500-page tome, Bryson covers everything from Cosmology and the start of our universe to bacteria, volcanoes, continental shifting, clouds, Neanderthals and us. It is an extensive, and as I said, ambitious project, but it was incredibly satisfying to pick up a book and learn something new in each chapter. As always, Bryson’s journalistic skills are on form as he meets, greets and interviews an incredulous variety of experts in their own unique fields in order to compact and convey sometimes very difficult subjects to an average person like me. It felt good to take a break from mindless fiction for a while to challenge myself. And a note on something I think is really important- especially from a Christian perspective- which is not to be afraid of science, Christians are so quick to dismiss evolution, the Big Bang and fossil records, but when you actually study these things in detail, as Bryson has done, as a Christian there is a distinct golden thread running through the discourse, which is that there is just no way we were not made or at the very least, part of a much bigger design. There have been too many fine, cosmological “accidents” which led to our existence. We live on such a knife-edge, not just in terms of the fact that our planet is the only one that evolved to support life, but even just the fact that homo sapiens evolved to become the dominant species over homo erectus and Neanderthals is enough to give you pause about your brief, yet potent existence (and how we should look after our only planet).

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4. Podcasts

Turns out, podcasts are great. On the back of the above discussion, I’ve recently felt incredibly under-stimulated at church. If I have to hear about another three steps or five points or four “take-aways” on how to be a better person and thus earn God’s approval on my life, I’ll cry. I scoffed at my sister when she said recently that podcasts are all she listens to in the car, but then I thought, why not try listening on the train to work. So every day for the past month, I’ve listened to a podcast from a range of international preachers, it’s done wonders for enriching my internal dialogue. In particular I’ve worked my way through a series by N.T Wright, Bishop of Canterbury and New Testament scholar par excellence, on the historical Jesus. Also noteworthy was a talk by Louie Giglio called Paradise in a Garbage Dump and one by Erwin McManus called No Waiting for Daylight. If you haven’t jumped on the podcast train yet, I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

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Besides theses four simple things, September was full of a range of wonders. It’s spring here, so my garden is alive with the smells and colors of a new season, I tasted a cocktail made with spekboom and cinnamon, and I was surrounded with good friends and positivity. What were some of your September highlights?

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Mark Ronson-Uptown Funk

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There ain’t nothing wrong with a little bit of swag on a Monday morning.

I’m loving the new song coming out of a Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars team-up. This throw-back tunes to the height of American funk is enough to uplift even the sourest of moods. And lets be honest, there is very little that Bruno Mars can do wrong.

Hate to see your heart break

 

There is something beautiful about women’s voices. Take a listen to this new one from Paramore, featuring Joy Williams (two Williams coming together on this great track) and let your heart be soothed. Its not your usual Paramore track, but its nice to see Joy teaming up with this great outfit since the end of the Civil Wars.

Nothing like a bit of Banjo in the morning

I’ve discovered the Oh Hellos, I might be a bit delayed, but man I love their sound! Sure they look funny, and they probably smell a little strange, but their content is deep and wide. This track is off the album Through the Deep Dark Valley, released in 2012. The band consists of two siblings, Maggie and Tyler from Texas. This is the only album they’ve released besides a Christmas album, but damn its good! The sound is comparable to Mumford and Sons, mixed with Of Monsters and Men (like, if these two bands had a one night stand, the Oh Hello’s would be their unexpected child). I hope you enjoy!

Of love and loss

This is my favourite local song ever, and that’s saying a lot. I guess its quite a nostalgic track for me, it takes me back to a very emotional time in my life, when  my best friend and I weren’t speaking (now, we are getting married!). Its a song about love lost. I’ve tried to translate these Afrikaans words for my foreign friends, but it never quite captures the essence of this beautiful ballad.

Just breathe

I love this song, it always reminds me of the bomb episode of season 1 in Grey’s Anatomy, (someone comes in with a bomb inside them and the doctors have to remove it without blowing up the hospital, its very tense). This song just deals with something that is very common to humanity: regrets, mistakes and the fact that in this life, we can only move forward, not backward. Its a beautiful, honest and raw song, but beware, the music video is very 90’s.

The A-Z of shuffling

I've shifted from shuffle to alphabetical.

I’ve shifted from shuffle to alphabetical.

I’ve been trying somewhat of a musical experiment on my IPod recently. In fact, I got the idea from one of my Twitter followers, who mentioned that he is doing the same thing at the moment.

If you are anything like me, you have reams and reams of music on your IPod and if you are like me, you permanently have it set to the “shuffle” function. Yet no matter how much new music I put on the thing, it always seems to go back to its firm old favourites, meaning that I probably haven’t heard some of the songs on my IPod for years.

So, I have changed from “shuffle” to playing songs in alphabetical order and I’m loving what I’ve discovered. Not only will I have listened to every song on my IPod by the time I get to Z (which will probably only be in a few months time) but there seems to be somewhat of a trend within letters themselves. This is what I’ve found so far:

A- Is populated by very “worshippy” songs, like Hillsong and WOW compilation type-tracks.
B- I found this to be a very profound section, with titles like “Beautiful Love” (The Afters) and “Back to the Beginning” (Switchfoot) in fact, there is a lot of Switchfoot in this section, they seem to favour the letter “B” for many of their songs. B is full of thought provoking rock songs with deep lyrics and excellent construction
C- This is where I am at the moment. “C” is fun, and full of dance tracks, the kind of thing you would put on when you’re planning on going out on a Friday night.

I’ll have to let you know what I find when I get to “D”, but why not try this experiment for yourself and let me know what you discover about your IPod and your taste in music.

So young but so good

 

Yes, The Vamps new single is all that you could wish it to be. These guys from the UK just seem to have all the luck! They’re pretty new on the scene still, only forming in 2012 with their debut single “Can we dance” only being released in 2013. Since then they’ve toured with the likes of The Wanted, McFly and Demi Lovato, who features on this track. Its both upbeat and sincere and definitely worth downloading!

We’ve all got ghosts

Classy lady Ella Henderson (X-Factor contestant 2012) has released her amazing debut track! I think this song could easily be the track of the year, what would you expect when its co-written by One Republic’s Ryan Tedder.

The profound lyrics mixed with the great sound make this a winner, not to mention Ella’s (who’s only 18 years old by the way) soulful voice. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do!

Story telling tunes

Wow.

So please meet my new favourite duo, currently known as Flannel Graph. Its Shayla and her friend Leon who make awesome music together and then occassionally post it on YouTube. Their sound is very Avalanche City mixed with Of Monsters and Men. In fact, I stumbled across them on Noise Trade when searching for artists similar to Of Monsters and Men, and now, although they only have 5 songs on their EP, I’ve been playing it non-stop.

The name Flannel Graph is taken from those old Bible stories they used to make for kids on TV using Flannel cartoons, which they would post on a board. Really a Flannel Graph is a story telling device,  and Shayla and Leon use their music to tell stories. All songs on their EP are based on parables taken from the Bible. I’m so in love with this band right now.